Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Butterfly Beach

A few weeks ago, I got up at the lovely hour of 5 am and drove down to Butterfly Beach in Montecito to catch the sunrise.

I always check the tides online before going to the beach, and this was the lowest I had ever seen it. I was kind of afraid that when I got there the ocean would be gone and I would be able to see all the way to the bottom.

Sure enough, "the ocean was gone", and there were some beautiful rocks exposed down by the waves.

To smooth out the waves, I made the exposure as long as possible. I set the aperture to the lens' minimum of f/22, and I set the ISO to the minimum of 100. This got me up to a 5 second exposure. The above photo, though, was actually overexposed and taken with a 20 second exposure.

While photographing these rocks, I knew the scene had a big range from dark to light, so I decided to bracket my exposures in case I wanted to try blending the different exposures. I bracketed the shot at -2, 0, and +2 stops. As it turned out, the +2 stop image (20 second exposure) looked the best. The water in the 0 stop image (5 second exposure) was pretty smooth, but it didn't have the same eerie atmosphere that this one has.

Are you ready to see the before and after? Because I don't think you are... :)

Where'd the color come from, right? First, I brought the whole image down 1 stop in Lightroom because it all looked over-exposed. Then, I added a graduated filter over almost the whole image to bring down the sky by another two stops. This brought out the clouds which were hiding in there, but they were still pretty white-washed. So I added a blue tone to the filter, and that's where the color came from. I think it works well because, if you compare it to some other properly exposed photos from the morning, the sky color is actually a pretty close match, though maybe just a bit more surreal.

I also played some with the -2 stop image, since it captured the colors in the sunrise. It's probably not a serviceable image because of the obliterated foreground, but I liked the sky and the reflection too much not to share it.

The moon crept in there at the edge of the shot. The moon was blown away in the +2 image, but you can actually still see its reflection in the water if you look closely.

After editing the -2 stop exposure, I was stoked, because I was thinking that I'd just blend this image together with the +2 exposure and get the best of both worlds. I've read a few other photographers mention blending in different exposures to get the perfect "seascape" shot, so I figured I was golden. It didn't work out at all, though. That sky is just far too dark for how light the foreground is in the other one, and there was just no way to believably blend the two together. I'm really glad I tried the blue tone in the +2 image, otherwise I probably would have just given up on the whole shot.

This was my first attempt at using rocks as a foreground, so I definitely didn't have a clear idea of what I was doing. I pretty much spent the whole time running around experimenting--I wasn't focused on finding and composing a perfect shot. A few photos still turned out really cool, though, and I definitely learned a lot in the process.

I was amazed at how that 20 second exposure turned out, but the below photo is really more what I was envisioning that morning.

This photo was taken with a 1/2 second exposure, and I love the way it captured the movement in the water. The photo as a whole isn't too great, though. The wave on the horizon is distracting, and the original image was badly underexposed, so the final edit has a lot of noise in the foreground.

The next time I go out, I think I'll try taking more photos around this shutter speed. I should also be able to adjust the aperture and ISO to overexpose it a bit and bring out the foreground better.

One last photo from the morning before I leave you.

Thanks for stopping by!